Designing a new website presents the right opening to improve your SEO, digital advertising, and conversion rates. Nevertheless, this can turn into a disaster especially if you fail to take the right steps to carry out a trouble-free shift. If something goes wrong, you can ruin the entire SEO that probably took you years to build.
This article highlights everything that should be considered when restyling a website to not only keep but advance your current search engine rankings and traffic.
For many companies, organic search drives the most traffic to a website. If anything goes wrong during a redesign, the outcome will be catastrophic. This is critical especially for small businesses, or cash-strapped businesses that rely heavily on SEO and organic search leads. Simple preparation and attention for the present organic traffic will avert the scenario.
Website Redesign and SEO
- The following three components are vital when remaking your website:
- An in-depth plan of what will be altered on the new website
- A deep understanding of what’s functioning in your existing SEO
- Knowledge of the common issues that show up with a redesign.
- This is also the best time to find your SEO flaws and eradicate them on the new site.
What is working?
It’s best to have a good idea of what’s working including the topics that rank, keywords and pages that bring in the most traffic. Take this information and feed it into your thought process for the new website.
The Common Issues
Websites are redesigned for many reasons, namely; to fix branding issues, stay in-line with technology, get more traffic and optimize on lead generation.
The following are the site redesigning common issues:
- The content can be altered
- Content can be removed
- Changing URLs
- The content can move within the site’s order
- Modification in page-level optimization
- You can find newly added content
- New segments can be added to the site
- New structures and technology may be used
- New technical matters can come into play
- The internal link structure could change
- The domain name may change
- Protocol may be altered
- Subdomain may be altered
If your site has numerous concerns such as content moving to a new URL and changing content, then it’s even more difficult to unearth the root causes.
If your domain changes at the same time with the design, this will be problematic; avoid doing these steps simultaneously. The more variables there are, the more problematic it’s going to be to solve them.
What will be altered with the redesign?
Your main goals should be:
To keep the existing traffic and rankings
To improve the rankings and traffic
By reviewing these two goals, you will now have a comprehensive sitemap for your new website and you can use it as a comparison to the existing site and generate the mappings for URL moves.
The Best Practices for a Trouble Free Design
The following checklist, if adhered to, will make sure that you keep your previous ranking as you launch your new site.
The old site should be kept alive. It’s good to keep the old site on a temporary website and use it as a reference if you hit a snag. However, you should make sure that it cannot be accessed by a crawler. A part of the site will still be available on the web archive but nothing comes close to having the real thing.
Save crawl data. It’s good to save the previous crawl data even if the site is hosted on a temporary URL. Use screaming frog for this task. Load the previous crawl data when carrying out any analysis.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Keep things the same, where you can, especially with the URLs. If you can keep the page names and URLs the same, then you cut the chances of things going wrong. Any change should be warranted.
301 redirects. Redirecting old URLs should be the first task carried out and if possible, the content should be kept on the same URLs. For example, a WordPress URL redesign keeps the same permalink structure. This is the best option.
If not, then you should have a copy of all the URLs of the old and new sites on a spreadsheet for easy implementation of the 301 redirects. When the new website goes live, you will want to crawl the old URLs list to make sure that the 301 redirects are working.
Content. Don’t change the content if it’s currently doing well. You can tweak the content on your new site but this should be done after indexing and ranking.
On-page optimization. By crawling your previous site, you’ll easily transfer all the on-page elements such as Meta descriptions, headers, page titles and so forth. They should be left as they are unless something needs to change.
Keep your backlinks up to date. Have a list of sites that are sending traffic to your site and once you have this list, have it updated. Up to date backlinks will help your site to get indexed and ranked swiftly.
Internal links. You should note any change made to the internal link structure, your crawl data is still treasured here. If your pages had internal links on the previous website but are now just linked to the new one, this will affect the rankings of that page.
XML sitemap. This should be updated and sent to Google and Bing. You want your page structure, 301s, XML sitemap and navigation to show the fresh site structure to make it easy for search engines to recognize the modifications.
Monitor your rankings. You should expect some variations but things should be back to normal within a month or so after launch. Any issue should be investigated, identified and resolved. Keep in mind that if you have a larger site, it takes a while to be re-crawled.
Monitor organic traffic. It’s hard to rank-track each of your site’s keywords, the easiest way is to check traffic to key pages, make sure that you see improvements.
Technical site audit. Make use of a technical website audit application to get all information on technical issues. There are plenty of tools such as Ahrefs, Moz but DeepCrawl is the best. This tool will check your log files and help you find the issues. These tools are useful and will help you solve all SEO problems.
Use Google Search Console. This tool has really improved and will give you diagnostic data directly from Google. Keeping track of your 404s and 301s will make sure that your steps are all working in your favor. The Search Traffic>Search Analytics tab is a gold mine, it has information on impressions, clicks, CTR and average position.
The main areas that you should look at to keep-up your SEO and rankings during a redesign are:
Knowing what works on the existing website.
Knowing the areas that need improving.
Planning for the new site.
301 redirect all old URLs to the new site.
Carefully checking the results.
The best time to improve your conversion rates and SEO is during a redesign. However, if your site is performing well, this should be approached with care. Follo